A wide shot of a ceramics studio, featuring students working with pottery wheels and other tools.

Celebrating Women in New Media Arts Highlights Feminist Frequencies in Art and Technology

Hundreds of attendees from Chicago and beyond packed the SAIC Ballroom on March 18 for Celebrating Women in New Media Arts, a public symposium and the capstone event to the Conversations on Art and Science lecture series that discussed how women artists use new media to merge art forms, address feminist issues, and critique technology. The day highlighted the achievements and contributions of a number of artists, as well as celebrated the upcoming release of the new book from the University of Illinois Press, Women in New Media Arts: Perspectives on Innovative Collaboration, edited by Donna Cox, Janine Fron, and Ellen Sandor (MFA 1975, HON 2014).

In addition to shining a spotlight on the work of how women have significantly advanced the field of new media art, the event provided a touchstone to reflect on SAIC’s history and present as an incubator for women artists who work with technology, from Professor Emeritus Sonia Landy Sheridan co-founding the Generative Systems department in 1972 (later renamed to Art and Technology and the oldest such department at any art institution in the United States) to the School’s continuing participation as a host site for Wikipedia Edit-a-Thons on Art and Feminism. The day consisted of a number of panel discussions on topics including the history of women in video art and new media, virtual realities, art games and narrative experiments in new media, the form of the body in virtual spaces and cloud-based technologies, data visualization, cyberfeminism, women’s health, and speculative futures. The event concluded with an open discussion on strategies for inclusive art practices in light of the challenges that artists working in new media and emerging technologies encounter.

Participants included the book’s editors as well as contributors Maxine Brown, Carolina Cruz-Neira, Margaret Dolinsky, Copper Giloth, Claudia Hart (SAIC Faculty), Tiffany Holmes (SAIC Dean of Undergraduate Studies), Brenda Laurel, Abina Manning (Director of the Video Data Bank), Lucy Petrovich, Dana Plepys (BFA 1981), Barbara Sykes (MFA 1981), Joan Truckenbrod (MFA 1975), and Jane Veeder (MFA 1977). Additional participants included Lee Blalock (MFA 2011, SAIC Faculty), Snow Fu (MFA 2014, SAIC Faculty), David Getsy (Interim Dean of Graduate Studies), Jon Cates (SAIC Faculty), Christina Gomez (SAIC Faculty), Marie Hicks, Terri Kapsalis (SAIC Faculty), Kirsten Leenaars (SAIC Faculty), Marlena Novak (SAIC Faculty), Sabrina Raaf (MFA 1999), Stephanie Rothenberg (MFA 2003), Elissa Tenny (SAIC Provost), Lisa Wainwright (SAIC Dean of Faculty), Jessica Westbrook (SAIC Faculty), and Faith Wilding (former SAIC Faculty). Nia Easley (MFA 2016) helped organize the event, and Jessica Barrett Sattell (MA 2015) and Anna Russett (BFA 2015) live-tweeted quotes and photographs throughout the day on SAIC’s Twitter page.


Image: Ellen Sandor (MFA 1975, HON 2014) and (art)n, Chris Kemp, Chris Day, and Ben Carney, Mies-en-scène: The Farnsworth House, 2009, digital PHSCologram